So, I'm supposed to go to work like everything is fine?
September 9, 2019 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My boss lost it and yelled at me at work today. In my opinion, it ventured into a personal attack. However, he apologized to me and, I guess... I'm supposed to accept his apology and go to work like nothing happened tomorrow? That doesn't feel right, he really hurt me. I don't know how I can pretend nothing happened.

I work at a school and we've been doing a renovation that hasn't gone according to plan. I work in the school library and, anyway, the principal yelled at me for not unpacking the books and filling our shelves fast enough. We're having visitors to the school tomorrow and the library, suddenly, looks awful to him. Despite the fact that I've been working towards the deadline of having it looking great tomorrow afternoon. Anyway, he yelled at me for not unpacking the bins fast enough, called me lazy (said I can't "hide" in my office anymore because I don't have one), criticized the new library workspace because it was messy (I was organizing stuff!!), and then (the kicker) he put two and two together and figured out that I was looking for a new job (I just got an MLIS, good grief... I know) and commented on how "I HAVE SO MUCH TIME TO LOOK FOR NEW JOBS" (what??).

Anyway, about 40~ minutes later after this outburst, he came and "apologized" to me (without letting me have a word in edgewise). Apparently now that he apologized, everything is great!! After this apology, he kept (sincerely, I am 98% sure) complimenting me on weird shit... like how "great" I did at organizing the books in the bins to unpack them, and how great the shelves look, etc. I haven't actually been able to do much until today because... he didn't order furniture on time!! And then at the end of the day he was acting completely NORMAL, like nothing happened... and I don't know what to think!!

I've NEVER been yelled at in a work environment like that. What he said was REALLY rude and, I'm sorry, but it really hurt my feelings! Like, I don't know how I'm supposed to pretend everything is fine now? I truly feel STUNNED, as if he slapped me in the face. I was NOT expecting this outburst at all. Other staff members have told me to let it go, because "he stressed," but... really? That makes it okay?

Shit, I was taking it "easy" with my job search before, but now I am ready to apply for any and everything (I even applied for a job right after I got home from work!)

Tomorrow is the meet the staff night at our school, so I have to stay at the school from 8AM-7PM and, ugh, I don't know what to do. How do I go into work pretending nothing happened? Do I have to?? I am at a complete loss.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ugh, that's awful and really out of line. He knew it was and that's why he acted awkwardly complimentary afterwards. It depends on how much energy you have. His apology doesn't mean he's off the hook. His apology was for him not you. You could lay low as much as you can only interacting with him when necessary. And focus your energy on finding a new job. Or keep looking for work but prepare something in writing letting him know that he was out of line.
posted by jj's.mama at 8:56 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Call in sick tomorrow but go to the staff night. While you're there, completely avoid him. Call in sick on Wednesday if you can.

I've said it before - taking a sick day is fine. If you have a cold and think work would make you feel sicker, you're entitled to a sick day. If you think work would make you feel sicker it's exactly the same thing.
posted by bendy at 8:58 PM on September 9


So, yeah, you do kind of have to go unless you can afford to be out of work. I’m really sorry that he behaved so unprofessionally and I am proud of you for using that energy to kick your job hunt into high gear!

Ideally, what would you like to happen tomorrow? Would you like to be left alone to do your work? Would you like him to apologize again? Would you like him to come in and tell you he’s quitting? Because the bad thing has already happened. Which sucks! And it should not have happened! But now you get to do some self care tonight and work on letting go of your (entirely justified) emotional response to it. Do something that will get your mind off it entirely, whatever that is for you. (A nice long walk somewhere I enjoy is my usual go to.)

Tomorrow when you get in, let him know how you would like the day to go. “Hey, I was super shaken up by your outburst yesterday, and in order to get through everything that needs to be done today I am going to need some space and to be left to get through it.” Or whatever it is. And then put on your headphones and go get it done. If you don’t want to hunt him down in the morning, wait for him to show up and say “thanks for stopping in. I’m needing some space today to get through my work. Your outburst shook me up, and today I just need some peace to get everything done for tonight.”

Don’t be confrontational or emotional with what you have to say, just state it plainly and don’t leave room for engaging on it further. You get to set the tone of professionalism you expect going forward from him. Also don’t leave it unsaid, because that type takes it as future permission if you don’t say something wasn’t acceptable.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:59 PM on September 9 [43 favorites]


This is report to HR, the board, your union rep level behavior. A person who has reached that level of leadership and is still incapable of behaving professionally in a stressful or crisis level situation needs executive coaching at the very least.

An apology that doesn't also come with an outline of the steps he's taking to change his future behavior is a worthless one. So you need to be able to to sit down in a meeting with your boss and a third party and have the opportunity to tell him how his behavior impacted you and ask for him to explain what he's doing to make sure he is better able to handle in himself in the future.

And then get a new job ASAP.
posted by brookeb at 9:02 PM on September 9 [35 favorites]


Oh, l just realized the "Do I have to??" question was more in terms of "do I have to pretend everything is normal?" not "do I have to go to work?" which I know I do. Ooops, I don't think that was clear.

Thanks for the advice so far!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:03 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


when that's happened to me it's been a death knell. Double down on that job search. You can pretend or not; it doesn't matter.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:03 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


You are absolutely in the right to be chilly and formal and just on the acceptable side of polite to this chucklefuck forever. You absolutely do not have to happy-jokey-sweetie-face this shit, you just have to keep your job until you find a better one. Which, yes, you should accelerate because he'll get rid of you just to get rid of the evidence of his inappropriate outburst generated because he's stressed about some bullshit that ain't your problem and he just decided you were low enough beneath him that he could use you as a punching bag.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:10 PM on September 9 [70 favorites]


It sounds like part of the problem is that you don’t feel like he has actually apologized, just tried to paper the situation over by saying anything, and that this might happen again. (I’d feel exactly how you do if I were in your shoes. This is unacceptable. )

I would slowly escalate this by transitioning this into a written email. My strategy would be to summarize what happened in a not-legal sounding, casual and friendly way, and frame it as a concern.

So something like: “Hi X, hope your day is going well! Yesterday you confronted me and called me XYZ, and then you said ABC. I want to share that I feel like what happened isn’t acceptable, and I want to make sure that we have a good working relationship going forward. I appreciate that you will understand. Let me know what you think. Looking forward to seeing you at X. Thanks!”

So: You’re not apologizing, you won’t change your behavior, you are making it clear that you’re assuming that he will change, and you’re open to talking. Not accusing, not angry, just matter of fact and friendly.

To me this step provides some loose documentation while sending the signal to him that “this could turn into something serious.. but isn’t yet, so you still have a chance to get it together, because you something wrong”. You are confronting him but you don’t sound angry, so it would be weird if he got all defensive. You leave a channel open for communication so that he apologizes, which is like the only reasonable thing to do.

And then should something like this happen again, you have written email documenting the past.

I’ve had this work well. Depending on who you’re talking to, wording it super friendly can be better (esp in bro-y or informal contexts).
posted by many more sunsets at 9:22 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Why should she be overly friendly in an email to him? He crossed a line. The email script is way over the top inauthentic friendliness. It sounds super fake and the only purpose is to be passive aggressively "not trying to make trouble" which is totally mysoginistic BS that ppl should not have to do. Which makes sense because you said yourself catering to "bro-y" contexts. Nope. This doesn't sound like that context.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:47 PM on September 9 [19 favorites]


Lyn Never has it.

Actually repairing your professional relationship, as opposed to issuing some kind of bullshit Oops, in order to restore your workplace to somewhere you'd even remotely consider staying at: totally on Mr Shouty, not on you.

And for what it's worth: I've worked with manbaby pricks like this, and have generally found that if I can't see them being replaced in fairly short order, hanging about myself is a waste of my waking hours. But they often don't last.
posted by flabdablet at 9:54 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


‘Let me know what you think...’ and ‘looking forward to seeing you...’ are at complete odds with the rest of the email about his outburst being unacceptable. She doesn’t want to know what he thinks - he already told her how he views her which is how she ended up here in the first place, she’s most definitely not looking forward to seeing him and it sends mixed messages. The OP is not obliged to whitewash her boss’s unprofessionalism to make it more comfortable for him.

I wouldn’t send an email at all, I’d turn up to work, avoid him if possible and OP, if you can’t, be civil but don’t engage unless you have to and definitely start looking for a new job. He knows he screwed up (hence the ridiculous over enthusiastic responses to your work afterwards) trust me, he will be staying out of your way hoping it blows over too.
posted by Jubey at 9:57 PM on September 9 [13 favorites]


Hmm. Maybe others are right.

I’ve had personal instances where being gentle and very firm worked very well, I felt like I got the upper hand and was able to stop shit while I left, and when/if things escalated, had great documentation of a conflict where they were the problem.

In my case, my issues were about experiencing racism in white work contexts, which in my experience, unfortunately requires some shitty careful maneuvering to make sure the other white people trust you / don’t see you as a source of “drama”.

So please take my approach as operating within a certain context !
posted by many more sunsets at 10:07 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


It sucks that you got yelled at by your boss. That said, based on his actions of apologizing he seems to realize he made a mistake. That doesn't make it right but at least he is willing to admit he was wrong. Many bosses aren't. It sounds like you are ready to find a new job and that's totally understandable but I don't think trying to move on from this and letting it blow over will hurt. You never know what kind of pressure someone is under. You may have caught the brunt of that. Again it doesn't make it right. But bosses come down on employees...happens all the time. And most never apologize even if they know they were wrong. I would go to work and try to move on. I'm not sure what calling out sick would do. Will it be awkward around him? Sure but give it time..
posted by ljs30 at 10:17 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


"Chilly and formal and just on the acceptable side of polite" is the right approach.

People recommending talking about your need for space and time to process and such are applying an inappropriate friends/family model to your boss (common Millennial error, I've noticed, though of course not exclusive to them). Don't talk to your boss about your feelings as getting in the way of your ability to interact at work. Don't talk to your boss about your feelings at all. Don't show that vulnerability, don't give him any excuse to say you didn't interact with him professionally afterwards. You have a standard you will be held to regardless of what he does.

And, yes, unless you truly have the feeling that this was a genuinely unusual lapse, escalate that job search.
posted by praemunire at 10:23 PM on September 9 [54 favorites]


Your boss either hates your guts, is worried about his own job, has a substance abuse problem, or is just an asshole.

In any case it's unprofessional AF, even if one is stressed out. I really can't see anyone giving two shits about unshelved books if there is no office furniture. This sounds more like punching down to vent anger, which is never ok.

The way to get through this is to picture his face when you hand in your resignation. As others have mentioned, do not discuss your feelings, he does not give a shit.
posted by benzenedream at 10:54 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


When under pressure or stressed, immature, unstable people like to lash out at others. He didn't yell at you because of anything in reality (like the library's appearance or your job performance); he yelled at you because he's a school principal a week into the school year.

It's not that you just let it go because "he's stressed." You just don't have to take it personally. Don't expect him to sincerely apologize, change, care that you were hurt, etc. Instead, focus on your job search, making the library look great for the students and their families, and keeping a cooly polite distance from your idiot boss. In that order.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:10 AM on September 10 [11 favorites]


You do not have to pretend to be normal, because his behavior wasn’t normal. It may be common for him to act like this (which maybe explains your coworkers’ reactions). Now you know he lashes out when stressed and you can factor that into your larger picture of him. If he confronts you directly about why you’re still acting cold (I don’t think he will, because my bet is he’s a coward and won’t refer to it directly again), say “What you said yesterday, and the way you said it, was upsetting beyond the point of a quick apology. It will take some time for me to watch and see that you won’t act that way again.”

I worked at a very high stress job for a while with a number of men who acted like this. I learned to be strong about pushing back in the moment, sometimes I reported it up the chain, sometimes I let it drop. None of it changed their behavior. It’s about them, not about you or anything you did wrong. Ultimately that taught me you can’t change a boss like that, you can only get away from them. So I switched jobs and in my new job, no one has ever acted like that!

If you do switch jobs, I would definitely bring this up if you ever have an exit interview. Let the school know that this incident was partially responsible for them losing your talents.
posted by sallybrown at 4:14 AM on September 10


When under pressure or stressed, immature, unstable people like to lash out at others.

I think the word here is less 'like' than 'tend'. If this was a one-off and the person is genuinely horrified and remorseful it doesn't make it ok but it's not helpful to frame them as a sadist. That just disempowers you. What you can absolutely do is establish some boundaries.

If you can state what it is you need going forward then you can have that conversation with them I.e. "I was shaken by that outburst and I need to know that this will not happen again. It would be good to agree the process for discussing any future issues that you have in a professional manner". If you don't feel able to have this conversation directly you can escalate to your line manager or HR or some other person with seniority.

If it is a regular thing then of course you should escalate AND crack on with your job hunt.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:16 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


A professional behaves professionally because another does not, even your superior, it does not alter how to best behave. Courteous, polite focused on professional responsibilities--don't bring it up--if he apologized again or acknowledges say something simple/direct such as--"it was upsetting but that was yesterday", I'm sure it was upsetting for both of us--no need to rehash, etc. Cheers and always take the high road in the direction you hope to go
posted by rmhsinc at 7:01 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


The fact that he apologized actually makes me think less that he is self-aware, more that this behavior has occurred before, and he has possibly even been reprimanded for it professionally. If that is the case, no wonder he’s trying to make nice with you. He may have made you feel like shit, but he also left himself—and depending how it would be handled if you chose to escalate—your employer at risk. So while I don’t necessarily have advice, but it may make you feel better to know that you might actually have the upper hand here. This is all conjecture, of course.
posted by lieber hair at 8:01 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Whatever you do, report it to HR/ management at some point so it gets documented. I've been the victim of a manager who apparently had a history of being inappropriate with women, but nobody reported it before me. Maybe if someone else had spoken up I wouldn't have had to deal with it. Or at least it would have been part of a pattern.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:24 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I'm supposed to to accept his apology
Absolutely not.

and go to work like nothing happened tomorrow?
Absolutely.

That doesn't feel right
Work frequently doesn't feel right--especially early in one's career. This job isn't that great a fit, so it's unsurprising that it doesn't feel right. Luckily, you're leaving.

he really hurt me.
Yes, but the hurt is necessarily shortlived because it is based on an earlier understanding of his character wherein he's a reasonable person who says reasonable things. Your new understanding, which is perhaps so new that it hasn't taken hold all the way, yet, reveals that unfortunately he's a toddlerboss: a contemptible tool who can't keep control of himself and lashes out at the people he supervises. So let's pretend that what will soon be the case is already the case: he didn't hurt you because he couldn't possibly hurt you because, knowing what you now know about him, you don't care what he thinks. The bottom line is this: he doesn't matter because you're leaving.

I don't know how I can pretend nothing happened.
You don't have to pretend it didn't happen; you can be icily polite to him from now on. What happened was that he lost control of himself; what you do in response is keep perfect self control. He had a tantrum and behaved childishly and shamefully. In response, you can demonstrate maturity, self control, and strength of character. Remember Michelle Obama's counsel. He went low, so you go high.

This is probably not the only toddlerboss you'll encounter on life's road. They're tragically common. Learning to interact with this one in this relatively low-stakes situation is actually a plus because you'll have an easier time with the next one, whom you may encounter when you're in a job you actually like. Next job, when you're looking for the next job after that, don't let anyone at work put two and two together and figure out that you're looking for a new job. Keep your cards close to your chest until you're ready to give notice.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:14 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]


Do you have a union? If so, you need to talk to your union rep about this ASAP.

If not, I leave it up to your judgment of the district whether you bring this to HR and the superintendent and the school board (when I was on the school board, people definitely brought this kind of thing to us, and we kept it confidential and it was very helpful to us in our duties of supervision of the administrative staff; in other districts, boards can be very chummy with the administrators they're meant to be supervising and screw over teaching staff), but I recommend you absolutely 100% explain it very clearly in your exit process with HR, and write a letter to the board explaining the outburst and that it led directly to your resignation when you go.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:34 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Also, if you have a union, involving them and HR may delay attempts to get rid of you, so you can leave on your own schedule rather than having him shoving you out in a rush.
posted by benzenedream at 10:50 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Something I remembered this morning that is what women have to do these days: from your personal email, send an email to yourself and someone who can speak for you in a later investigation if necessary (mothers are very popular, best friends and siblings will work as well, just keep in mind that it apparently takes at least two women to make up the testimony of one man) describing everything that happened. If something else happens and you need to escalate to HR or the police or a newspaper or whatever, you've got the timestamped email and "proof" that this was "bad enough" that you had to tell your mom about it.

I'm sorry I even have to give this advice but, you know, *gestures around*.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:02 AM on September 10 [14 favorites]


Thank you. SO. MUCH. For all of your advice, it's given me a lot to consider going forward.

And also, you guys must have put some good vibes into the atmosphere for me because I have an INTERVIEW for the position I submitted my resume for last night, damn! Momentum is really something!!!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 6:46 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]


How are things with your boss these days? And did you get the job?!
posted by Jubey at 4:41 PM on October 9


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